Cow-calf operators not only need to regularly check their mineral feeders or blocks to be certain they are supplying the minerals cows need, they need to ensure Veterinary Feed Directive management aspects are met as well.

In some cases, medications may be recommended by the cattle producer’s veterinarian to be included in the mineral mix, reminds Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus animal scientist and editor of the OSU Cow-Calf Corner newsletter.

“Cow-calf operators will want to monitor mineral consumption closely to be certain that the label-recommended amounts are being consumed by the cattle, remembering that a VFD is now necessary for antibiotic feeding in mineral supplements,” he said. “The rancher should contact and work with a local large animal veterinarian about the appropriate VFD for his or her specific operation.”

Placement of mineral feeders and blocks can aid in achieving optimum mineral intake. Place them in areas where cattle spend a lot of time.

“Minerals should be placed in loafing areas, near water sources, in shady areas or any other location that tends be a popular place for the herd to congregate,” Selk said. “A good rule of thumb is to provide one mineral feeding station for every 30 to 50 cows.”

OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources recommendations are that producers should check feeders at least once a week and keep a clean, fresh supply of minerals present at all times.

“A good feeder should keep minerals dry, be portable and hold up to abuse and corrosion,” Selk said. “Open tubs are not adequate in areas getting substantial rainfall.”

Additional information about calculating mineral intake is available online by using the OSU Mineral Calculator and the OSU Mineral Consumption Record sheets. To download these aids, go to http://beefextension.com and click on the appropriate menu items on the right side of the page.

Selk added choosing a mineral mix requires understanding of the animal’s requirements and the minerals available in the forages and feedstuffs available to the cattle.

“Mineral needs tend to be area specific and change with soil type, fertilization rates, rainfall and many other factors,” he said. “Mineral requirements also will depend on animal age and stage of production.”

An excellent reference source for Oklahoma beef producers about mineral supplementation can be found in OSU Extension Bulletin E-861, “Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition of Grazing Cattle.” The bulletin is available online at http://osufacts.okstate.edu or by contacting any OSU Cooperative Extension county office, typically listed under “County Government” in local directories.